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A Christmas pudding is a type of dessert traditionally eaten in Britain after the Christmas meal. The English have enjoyed some form or another of this traditional Christmas dish since about the early 1400s. The traditional Christmas pudding probably evolved from dishes such as frumenty, a porridge-like mixture of meats, dried fruits, and spices that was widely eaten during the medieval Christmas season in Britain. The Christmas pudding could have also evolved from the mince pies medieval people prepared to help preserve their meats and fruits during the winter, as these pies contained many of the same ingredients used in Christmas puddings today. Some believe that the making and serving of the dish has religious significance, and its traditional ingredients are often items that were expensive and rare in the medieval period.
Most believe that a solid Christmas pudding, textured with crumbs and eggs, probably evolved around the year 1600. The eating of a Christmas dessert containing meats, fruits, and spices and flavored with beer, wine, or liquor had probably been considered traditional in England for about two centuries. Historians believe that the evolution of the Christmas pudding began when the Roman Catholic Church encouraged English families to make and consume this holiday treat. The traditional Christmas pudding is said to contain 13 ingredients, one representing each of the 12 apostles and one representing Jesus Christ. The pudding was to be concocted on the final Sunday before the Christian Advent season, and each member of the household was to take a turn stirring the pudding mixture, from east to west, as an act of homage to the three wise men mentioned in the Christian tale of the birth of Christ.
The traditional holiday pudding as it is eaten today probably didn't appear until Victorian times. This pudding is usually made with suet, fruit, nuts, flour, and sugar, and is usually also seasoned with a range of spices, liquors and wines. It may be decorated with sugar or holly leaves before serving. Most British families like to pour brandy or another liquor over the Christmas pudding, and set it alight before ceremoniously presenting it to the table.
Small coins and trinkets have been traditionally cooked into the pudding, for the diners to find. A coin is said to bring wealth to the finder in the coming year, while a ring is said to indicate coming nuptials. A tiny anchor cooked into the pudding is said to bring safety to the finder, while a thimble is said to bless the finder with a frugal spirit. Small wish bones are also sometimes cooked into the Christmas pudding, and are said to bring a year's worth of luck to the finder.
If I thought anyone else in the family would eat a Christmas pudding, I might attempt one. But they are fiddly things to make, and have to steam for so long. I'm just not sure I'm up to the challenge.